I love this time of year. There is a freshness about it as we get ready to go back to school and work and our lives return to their usual business. (Note for the Northern Hemisphere readers: I live in the Southern Hemisphere, so we’ve just had our summer holidays). I’m a middle school teacher by day, so I’m back to work today with some planning this week before the students arrive next week. I’m lucky that in my job I get to be both a classroom teacher (something I love) and a dance teacher (something else I love). So professionally this year will hold a lot of dance for me.
This year is a production year at school, which means a gentler less intense start to the year than a stage challenge year. I’ll start term one off by auditioning my dance performance group early in the term. I’ll work with them on a performance – probably a contemporary dance (though I haven’t officially decided yet) – for the end of the term (just before Easter). In term 2 these same girls will be busy learning a multitude of dances for production, and I’ll also be choreographing for the whole cast and leads a little as well – moving while singing rather than full out dancing. Term 3 will be a lovely break, we’ll probably try and fit in a workshop or maybe a trip to the ballet while working on a couple of dances for the end of year with the dance performance group. Term 4 will see the dance performance group continue their work for the end of year performances and will also see the whole school take part in a social dance unit that I have developed – good fun!
Outside of school, my teaching at The Dance Well Centre will continue, currently just with a Jazz 3 class, a Senior Stretch/Technique class and Senior Contemporary. In term 2 or 3 I’ll look at adding a new beginner teen class, and possibly a junior class. As we don’t teach an exam syllabus, I have a lot more freedom in what I do, but I am starting to build up a syllabus/curriculum of sorts to provide some continuity, so I’ll also be hard at work choreographing that.
I’m hoping later in the year to look at the possibility of establishing a teen/young adult contemporary performance group, along the same lines at Crow’s Feet, which is a contemporary dance collective for women age 35+ operating in Wellington. I’m still 9 years off being able to join that, so I’d like something to dance with in the mean time!
I’m also enjoying planning what this blog will look like in the year ahead. I want to separate it from The Dance Well Centre, because it’s not the same. Though it is of course related and there will also be digital (and non-digital) links between the two. This year I want to focus more on telling stories of what it means to be a dancer. Not just my story, but lots of stories, from all kinds of dancers. If you are interested you can check out this post for more information. I’ve already got four young dancers lined up and two dancers who started ballet as adults too. There are also playlists, student guides, posts for teachers and of course a little bit of my story planned too.
I’ve been a bit remiss in posting lately, but I have a good reason for it! Several, in fact. The first is that my son T. was born a month and half ago. He’s super cute and doing extremely well. And we are absolutely loving life with him.
The second reason is that I’ve been hard at work on making another dream become reality – opening my own dance centre. Of course, like the sensible person I am, I’m starting small, with just two classes next year. The space is all booked and I finished and launched the website this morning. So without any further ado let me introduce The Dance Well Centre:
We’re starting off next year with a choreography workshop class and a dance wellness class which you can find out about here. I’m pretty stoked with the website and logo, having built both myself. Now I just need to finish the marketing flyer and we’ll be all set.
If you live in Wellington and are between the ages of 12 – 18 and are interested in one of the classes then please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. Also don’t forget you can follow us on Instagram @dancewellcentre and like us on Facebook too.
And just in case you are worried – don’t be! I’m still planning to keep this blog going with it’s original intended purpose – to provide interesting and useful articles for dancers and dance teachers.
I’m pleased to (finally) be able to give you a sneak peak of the photo shoot I had with gorgeous dancer L. about a month ago. While I’m saving most of the images for their accompanying blog posts here are a few of my favourites.
For those wondering, L. is an intermediate level dancer just beginning on pointe. She turns 13 this year. The teacher/older dancer in the photos is me.
Rotating through the whole leg and ensuring the knee is tracking over the second toe is important when working in turn out.
There’s a sort of grotesque beauty to a dancer’s feet.
Helping students to rotate the foot to avoid sickling develops a sense of correct alignment.
Stretching through the feet is as important in contemporary as in ballet.
Creating a sense of length and longing through epaulement and eyeline.
Supporting dancers to feel correct alignment helps to develop their proprioception of a movement.
The teacher/mentor relationship is such an important one for dancers of all ages.
All photos are taken by Marilyn Jessen and Copyright to dancewell.wordpress.org. Please do not use without DanceWell’s permission.
I’ve blogged for a long time and I’ve danced for a long time too, so in many ways DanceWell is the inevitable collision of the two. Having come back to dance as an adult and as a teacher, my sense of dance and understanding of the powerful role it can play in creating wellness has changed the way I view dance.
Having the benefit of seeing dance as a curriculum subject within the New Zealand schooling curriculum and over a decade of traditional syllabus based dance class experience, I wanted to find a way to marry the two. So I decided to tackle my biggest dance challenge yet – getting my teaching Licentiate for Ballet, while developing my school’s co-curricular dance programme.
Both of these have been a huge source of satisfaction for me, but have challenged me immensely to develop my understanding of dance pedagogy (teaching practice), dance theory, ballet and contemporary technique, dance history and, perhaps the most interesting to me, dance wellness.
So what is DanceWell? For now, it’s a creative space – a combination and a culmination of my learning and research. A place to share our stories of what it means to be dancers, and what it means to dance well, as well as advice on how to develop dance wellness.